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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Shower Curtains

Eight percent of Canadians will experience major depression at some time in their lives, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. These people are nuts! If I had to dig my car out of a snow bank the size of a small house at least twice a week during winter I would be depressed all my life. It appears that 92 percent of Canadians go about digging with a cheerful attitude. That thought makes me further depressed. The true figure is probably closer to 25% but most people surveyed were probably too depressed to speak.

I traveled to Canada one summer when I thought it was safe. For crying out loud, it was 60 degrees Fahrenheit at 1pm in August! Closer to home, residents of Seattle, Washington are said to be the most depressed people in this country, and only because it rains there all the time. That’s the sort of thing that causes you to wonder about the British. Not only does it rain, but also there are too many people in a small space in Britain. The British though, are not as dumb as you think. At least they are smart enough to stay put rather than migrating to spacious surroundings in Canada.

But you may as well get used to the idea of shoveling ducky as we’ll be running out of oil sometime soon and I hear the Canadians have a pile of it, more than they can possibly use, all 32 million of them. They have a substance called tar sands, from which, if you press hard enough, you can squeeze a substantial amount of oil. There is so much tar sand deposits that Canada potentially has the world’s largest deposits of oil. Combine that with our potential for the world’s largest consumption of anything and you have a match made in heaven.

Sitting around gazing at the national navel is not going to cut it in these times of perilously scarce oil. It’s now become standard thinking in the industry that oil supplies will only continue to get tighter as more and more Chinese and Indians discover that in-dash navigation systems are drawing more power than their rickshaws and scooters can produce. The middle class in both countries are moving into cars at an exponential rate and their appetite for fossil fuels is growing alarmingly. I would suggest we act fast before the Chinese make any more money selling us shower curtains and decide to buy Canada.

The entrepreneurial Indians, not to be outdone, may just make a bid for Alaska as we hardly seem to have much use for it. After all, only six hundred thousand Americans live in Alaska, or put another way, that’s the number of spectators at a village cricket match in Uttar Pradesh state on a Saturday morning.

If the Chinese move into Canada and start shoveling snow en masse we could be in for a torrid time. Last time I checked, 25 percent of 1.2 billion worked out to 300 million. Do you have any idea into what kind of brouhaha that many depressed people could get themselves? And lest not even think about their close proximity to Washington state, home of some of the best marijuana grown anywhere.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pipe Dreams

Psychiatrist Igor Grant, MD, writing in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, says long-term, and even daily, use of marijuana does not cause brain damage. However, prolonged use of words like neuropsychological is another matter entirely. I am humbled by that revelation and in the interest of advancing science myself, wish to pronounce that the obverse effect can be demonstrated. Having left you stunned by my feat of scientific legerdemain, let me explain that which I postulate. Failure to use marijuana on a daily basis CAN cause brain damage.

Some 26 percent of the population admits to using marijuana, which should tell you that that some of the remaining 74 percent of the population is lying or suffers to some degree from brain impairment. It is more widespread than you may think and is not simply relegated to workers at fast food drive-thru windows who can mix up your order of one serving of french fries. Whole swathes of the population are at risk, most often in government, law enforcement or even boards of directors of very large corporations. And I have examples.

Ask yourselves if city governments that introduce red light cameras, then speed up the lights at known dangerous intersections to ensure high ticket revenue, are smokers or non-smokers. I thought you would see what I mean. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Several years ago, the giant corporation Coca Cola, decide to change the formula for the most popular drink on earth next to water, only to change it back after the new formula bombed. You must know that the board of the directors at the time were not known to be marijuana users. In more modern times, we have seen evidence that the guys who approved the production of the Pontiac Aztec at General Motors had never taken a toke in their lives.

You can add to the long and growing list of non-daily smokers, congressmen who appropriate funds for bridges to nowhere or those that hide money in their freezers. Not to be outdone are dear leaders who fire the occasional rockets across the sea of Japan. Not all non-smokers seek to make their activities that obvious. Here and there a bit of cleverness creeps in and they throw up a smokescreen to make you think they are not as brain damaged as you may have speculated. Take the militia group in Darfur that is hell-bent on creating the world’s largest refugee camp. These wags have been clever enough to disguise their degree of brain damage by calling themselves the Janjaweed.

There are countless examples to prove my assertion in all parts of the world. But Americans seem to have a hammerlock on the really big ones. Can you imagine the conversation that led the first purveyors of bottled water to their logical conclusion? Something like:
“Dude, the bottling plant down the road says they can’t take any more of our plastic bottles, dude. They’re going out of business. What are we gonna do with all these bottles?”
“I don’t know dude, but I’m having a bitching thirst from this weed you gave me. Got any water on you?”

Those guys are geniuses. On the other hand, if the water you drink costs more than the gasoline you used to go fetch it, you are not a long-tem user of marijuana.

Mike McFarlane


Moon Breaker

It’s time, once again, to put a man on the moon. Now that we have grown accustomed to people who blow up themselves, watching network television has become a jaundiced affair. The nightly stew of two men robbing a bank and escaping in a hybrid motorcar no longer fires the imagination, nor do images of brain, bone and fragments of clothing mixed in with the oranges in a blown Tikrit marketplace. See, I’m even becoming familiar with the names. I can now say Fallujah without you thinking I’ve just contracted a rare virus from the Mumba-Mumba forest outside of Lusaka.

It’s time to create another colossal spending bill of interstellar proportions and what better place to throw it but at the moon? It’s accessible, not to mention visible. The beauty of this accessibility means that our progress can be tracked using a $20 telescope bought at your nearest monolithic discount store chain. And it’s close enough that Geraldo Rivera will want to make a trip there; you know, to interview someone, anyone and make his usual startling revelation. He could begin with an expose on the other side of the moon not being really dark, or something like that.

Having gone back to the moon, we shall have to do something when we get there. After all, spending untold trillions to go somewhere and not even enjoy the fly fishing is a terrible waste of time. That is akin to running in circles or driving in ovals, as you like it. The question, of course, is what to do when we go back to the moon. After a short while, moon rock sales will go bust so we must start thinking about the next big thing as soon as possible.

Short of anything like a long term plan, the type of which NASA fervently avoids, I would suggest we start by digging a hole. Marvelous things have turned up from hole digging exploits of ancestors past. First we invented wells, then gold and the last true breakthrough from digging holes has been oil. Now I’m not suggesting anything the size of an oil well. I am talking about the mother of all nappy-headed holes, the kind of which you would be able to drive an aircraft carrier through…sideways.

And the use of this hole you ask? Why, to fire the imagination of course. Think of it as the ultimate speculative venture of all time. And imagine the conversational possibilities. Whole university departments will be cobbled together to study this phenomenon. Network TV will devote the entire nightly news to a gusher of talking heads, waxing knowledgeably on The Hole. Archaeologists will lose interest in the great pyramids. The Russians will surrender as they will be certain we are digging the largest launch tube the world has ever seen. The Chinese will harken back to the old adage about digging a hole down to China and become very circumspect in their dealings with us.

Of course, such a venture will require huge amounts of labor and will put paid to our dilemma of what to do about our immigration problem. And then, holes of the magnitude of which I speak are sure to need a little blasting from time to time. I happen to know just where to find some experienced hands…in Fallujah.

Mike McFarlane

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sexual Surging

You may be slightly dismayed to learn that 76% of pastors around the country struggle with issues related to porn. These are not my statistics; rather they are the result of a scientific survey of men of the cloth nationwide. Who knew that the cloth had changed from a bib to a g-string in the time it took me to leave catholic school and grow a few grey hairs?

Naturally, there is a bright side to all of this. Those of you who are struggling with issues relating to porn can now seek sage advice from men who know that of which they speak. I always found it rather odd that I was told to get marriage counseling prior to tying the knot but I couldn’t quite put my finger on that nagging feeling in the back of my mind. It later occurred to me that taking advice from a sworn enemy of the frock was akin to asking a gambler if I should cut the red wire or the blue.

What would a priest know about marriage that he could possibly impart? Priests can give good advice on gambling though, and a few other things to boot. Quoting from The Catholic’s Guide to Bingo Party Gaming is mother’s milk for most priests. But the Catholics aren’t the only church with homegrown expertise. If you want to know how to become a millionaire you have to talk to the Baptists, some of whom have taken fund raising to higher plains.

I happen to know of a mega church whose Wednesday rituals include signing the slip for the armored car driver who picks up the collection from the prior Sunday. These guys could tell you a thing or two about subscription sales and the finer points of ATM machine servicing. What sayest thou? Thou hath not an ATM at thy church? That is so old school dude! I bet you thought the folks in the front row of televised Sunday programs are the ones that got there first. Not so. Those are reserved seats allotted according to the size of your tithe, determined by church examination of your W2. What appears to be a random collection of the faithful come to worship is actually carefully orchestrated modern day absolution.

The one thing you are guaranteed never to see mega churches do is encouraging the faithful to blow themselves up. Which brings me to the subject of how a surge could bring a quick end to the war in Iraq. Rather than send more troops over there to discourage the Iraqis from their practice of deep self-immolation, a small flotilla of Southern Baptists is all we really need. A few days of consultations and the Imams will begin to see the futility of their congregation-reduction programs.

Of course we’ll need to back up their visit with a quick and dirty roll-out of free wireless internet service within hailing distance of every Mosque. Within a couple of months, 76% of Iraqi Imams would be too distracted by internet porn to struggle with issues related to bombs.

Mike McFarlane

It's Spring Again

In case you haven’t heard, we are now over the hump. Ah yes. It’s that time of year again when hope springs eternal and middle age men’s minds turn to thoughts of buying the long-delayed convertible of their dreams. Never mind the mutterings about second childhood and the like. It’s time to raid the 401k for something a little sporty.

Not so my thoughts. I have been musing about the wisdom of taking a cruise, having spent the winter perfecting my design for a workable, and portable kerosene fridge. You are wondering what would a cruise and a kerosene fridge have in common and I can see you are inexperienced in these matters.

Alternatively, I am toying with the idea of developing a working relationship with my local purveyor of fine burgers and fries. There is a short treatise on the internet somewhere for converting my car to running on grease you see, and where better to acquire free raw material than at the local grease trap? That idea rules out any immediate chance of my purchasing the mid-life convertible, whose toplessness would not go well with the scent of yesterday’s biggie fries wafting by on the wind. No convertible for me, rather I have been scouring the used car web sites for a Buick Roadmaster station wagon, the ideal mode of propulsion for large supplies of fuel.

As you may imagine, supply is the key ingredient here. You are protesting that there is a greasemeister on every corner who would be only too glad to give away some of their waste but that is not necessarily the case. Sooner or later there will come a time when some sage venture capitalist will latch on to idea of contracting with corporate lard houses to collect their grease, pump it into flashy containers and brand it for resale. Small-time collectors like myself will be banished to prostrating ourselves before the local MSG mavens. With supply short, you’ll need large capacity for the times when you get lucky. Enter the Roadmaster, that of low lift-over load floor and gobs of real estate when the seats are folded. If you have ever tried loading 55 gallon drums into a sport utility vehicle you’ll know what I mean.

Free grease will be a wonderful alternative to the branded variety I envisage in our near future. For your part, you should avoid succumbing to the wiles of the shills who will be offering “lightly used, partially hydrogenated Brand X” or the old standby “X On with Safron.” The Roadmaster is so cheerfully low-tech it will run on tar sands, let alone two- week-old Shrimp stir-fry less the shrimp. Try that in a Honda S2000 and you’ll be crying in your soup.

I have already calculated the savings in gasoline from running the old Buick on discarded olefins and it could prove to be rather substantial even considering the cost of a used roadcraft carrier. There are several listed on the internet for $1500 or so, but that’s the asking price. I postulate that anything that casts such a large shadow can be safely taken off a relieved owner’s hands for $500 or so. I won’t bore you with the math but it’s safe to say I’ll end up with enough money left over to…go on a cruise. And no self-respecting cruiser should venture forth without a kerosene refrigerator.

I know what you’re thinking. “Did he lose his mind or is he sick?” Neither of the above me hearties. Cruise ships, you may have noticed, have a strange propensity to lose passengers, run aground, roll abruptly or develop unexplained fires, often at the most inconvenient times, in the summer, in the Caribbean, in 90 degree weather. In that kind of scenario, the price of refrigeration on a stranded cruise ship could approach that of X On with Safron, and with the only workable model of coolness on board I’ll be the Sheik of Daboat in short order. I have already calculated the profits from running the refrigerator onboard and it could prove to be rather substantial…just enough to buy a Honda S2000.

Mike McFarlane


Border Fences

I grew up in a country where every house had a fence of some kind surrounding it. Some were elaborate structures complete with hideous gargoyles placed at regular intervals, and presumably designed to keep the kids next door next door. I know a thing a thing or two about fences having leapt a few low ones in my youth, so it seems most natural that I would be drawn to the government’s proposal to build a fence along our southern border.

This is going to be a massive undertaking, what with a border 1450 miles long, spanning miles of physically hostile territory. Any such construction will, of necessity, require structural soundness and proven longevity. It will be handy to afford space for troops or border guards to patrol not only from behind the wall, but also on top, the better to detect any attempts at tunneling. Such a wall would be mighty indeed and shall go down in history as a great wall.

And by happy coincidence, I have been able to locate just such an item that we could probably have for a fair price. And what’s more, it has been lightly used and has a reputation for longevity. My only worry is that the transportation costs may be daunting, as the wall I’m thinking of is 4,500 miles long. However, all is not lost. In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, I would suggest we use 1,450 miles for ourselves and sell the remainder to the country that has long wanted to keep Americans out of their territory, those pesky northerners in Canada. Of course there’d be a shipping and handling fee and some other related charges but I’m sure we’d be able to cut a deal.

Naturally, there’s some assembly required. Actually, there is a lot of assembly required. My first thought was to outsource the assembly work for the northern wall to workers from Berlin as they have some experience with these matters. Then I realized those other pesky northerners in Detroit would have none of it. What with several auto manufacturers shedding workers faster than a lizard changing its skin, there are thousands of skilled laborers who would be thrilled to go back to work assembling anything. Few would be able to tell the difference between stone works and a Dodge Caliber anyway, by virtue of their amazing similarities.

Those of you capable of doing the math are thinking the left over wall from our great southern project wouldn’t be enough to span the Canadian border, but I assure you, Canada has little to fear from Washington state, home of some of the best marijuana grown anywhere in the world. Montana, meanwhile, doesn’t have enough population to fill a Wal-Mart, so they could stop building at North Dakota and fudge the rest.

The southern wall will be a lot more difficult to erect. At the best of times it is piping hot in Texas, Arizona and most other places with tumbleweed. No self-respecting American would be caught dead erecting anything in 100 degree weather unless it’s a tent, and then only in the Middle East. I’m afraid we’ll have to import the labor on this one me hearties. And to those wags suggesting we use illegal immigrants from southern North America, I would respond that such a plan would be the moral equivalent of asking the Trojans to build you a horse.

In the true spirit of entrepreneurship, that leaves us with no recourse but to ask…the Chinese.

Mike McFarlane


been laden with GOSAMA

I’m terrified to note that one in 150 kids in the United States has been diagnosed as Autistic, a terrible medical affliction that causes children to forget what shortcuts to take to get to level 312 in Gorg Star Alien Mushroom Avanus. You have that puzzled look on your face as if to say “What is Gorg Star Alien Mushroom Avanus?” That level of ignorance leads me to believe you are not a true gamer, or you are over 30 years old and shouldn’t be reading this anyway, or you may be autistic.

For the rest of this column I’ll take it easy on you by referring to the game by its acronym, GOSAMA. Back to the affliction. In the early eighties, before pharmaceutical companies discovered there was gold in them thar autistics, only one in 2,500 children had been diagnosed with autism. Thanks to modern science and parental indiscretion, it is now known that many children are no longer lazy, dumb or lacking ambition. They’re just plain autistic.

You will be happy to hear that autism was first described by Dr. Leo Kanner of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a scientist with a large head size and time on his hands. Dr. Kanner divined 11 aspects of a child’s behavior or physical circumstance that indicated autism and before your eyes glaze over and your mind starts to reel from the heavy influx of science I have just introduced, know that staring into open areas without focusing on anything specific is a sure sign of autism. That, of course, is an area of personal concern as I recall spending large gobs of time looking out the classroom window during 10th grade.

Tenth grade also brings to mind memories of a kid we called “Bulby”, who often resisted eye contact. Had I known at the time this was a feature of the autistic child I may not have remarked so loosely on his wandering gaze. I was often puzzled as to which eye was looking at me and to solve that dilemma, I would look over Bulby’s shoulder, thereby confirming his suspicions that I had a wandering gaze. Now that I think about it, I know more than a few people who may be autistic and henceforth, I shall be looking out for the condition and warning them to seek treatment.

I would advise you to start doing the same, and start right there in your own home. This may be something as dreaded as Avian flu and could spread exponentially. Some of the most risk-prone types are women and sky divers. This is evidenced from research that shows autistic persons are unable to follow simple directions such as: turn left then make a right at the third traffic signal. The behavioral signal for sky divers is the propensity to engage in self-injurious activity for no obvious benefit. Recent examples of autistic behavior of this nature include wandering into the line of fire on hunting trips resulting in one being shot in the face by a fellow hunter with a wandering gaze.

If your child seems to be deaf you should start taking note. Children who do not respond to the word “no” accompanied by a creasing of your brow and a clenching of your teeth may be at risk. Of note to my fellow males, female attachment to certain objects, usually of the gold or diamond variety is a dead giveaway. And of special note to women, mates who do not respond to their name may be either autistic or watching Monday night football. If it’s Tuesday and you note this lack of response it may be your mate has been laden with too much GOSAMA.

Mike McFarlane 04.04.07